100 Nano-Stories: Hybridization Explained!

Episode #42: Sigma, Pi, Hybridization, Alkanes, Alkenes, and Alkynes! (Part 2)

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez
3 min readMar 5, 2021



It’s your favorite material science & nanotechnology enthusiast! A couple of days ago, I explained sigma & pi bonds from organic chemistry, and how they can relate to chemicals used in the production of aerogels! I highly recommend reading this to understand today’s topic!

Following up on the previous article, I want to talk about hybridization today and how it can play a role in chemical reactions during the sol-gel process of carbon, organic, and inorganic aerogels!

Hybridization Explained! 💡

But What Is Hybridization? 🤔

In simple terms, hybridization is combining two things to make one new thing! You are a hybrid of your mom & dad’s DNA! A mule is a hybrid between a male donkey & a female horse!

Hybridization in sigma & pi bonds is basically combining atomic orbitals into hybrid orbitals by combining sigma & pi energies in the outermost electron shell! These atomic orbitals occur in the valence electrons of the carbon atom, or the last orbital/shell of electrons.

As you can see from the valence electron diagram & the orbital diagram, 4 valence electrons are missing in the 2nd orbital! This means that to fill up the outermost electron shell, they must combine sigma (s) and pi (p) energies, or hybridize!

Explaining The Diagram! 📈

This is a carbon atom in the form of an orbital diagram. The first shell of a carbon atom needs two electrons, while the second shell needs 8 electrons. If you notice, 4 lines are missing in the outermost shell of the carbon atom. This means that the carbon atom only has 4 valence electrons in its outermost shell. If it helps, here is a diagram of a normal carbon atom with the electron configuration.

Finally, hybrid orbitals can make sigma bonds! These sigma bonds are the strongest of all bonds in chemistry because they are formed from the overlapping of atomic orbitals (“the sharing of electrons”)! This overlap will consist of the formation of hybrid orbitals. A sigma bond looks like the drawings you see on your high school chemistry test:

If you think about it, anything that has a double bond, triple bond, etc. will have unhybridized orbitals. These unhybridized orbitals will make pi bonds, which you can find in double or triple bonds. Here is an example of a molecule with an unhybridized orbital (pi bonds):

Closing Thoughts! 💭

This is the overall definition of hybridization and how we can determine what it does!

I will explain pi orbitals and unhybridized orbitals in another article! See you tomorrow! 👋🏽

Vocabulary! 📓

Sigma Bonds → Head-to-head overlap of atomic orbitals. The symbol for sigma is (σ).

Pi Bonds → Lateral overlap of atomic orbitals. The symbol for pi is (π).

Hybridization → Combining two things to make one new thing.

Valence Electrons → Electrons in the outer shell/last row of an atom.

Connect →🔗



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